Lots of writers for kids start out like this mom. We get interested in children’s books because we are in the process of parenting young children. Maybe we fall in love with the picture book genre and dream of seeing our name in print. We want to write books that will appeal to our children or will tell a story of something that happened in our child’s life.
I had no opinion one way or the other about the manuscript I’d received. It’s not the sort of book I’m interested in. But, as a publisher, I spend a lot of time thinking about who reads my books, who needs my books, and who buys my books. I have a definite audience in mind for the work I produce.
Do you ever wonder, as a writer for children, what kind of children make up today’s readership? How many are actually like that Seattle mother’s child, being raised by a stay-at-home mom in a middle-to-upper-class home, where books and favorite toys abound? If you haven’t thought about that question, I challenge you to try. Many successful writers have already done so.
Here’s just one type of statistic about today’s young readers. These numbers are from the Federal Interagency on Child and Family Statistics. The “Leave It to Beaver” family still exists, but there are lots of other family variations:
- In 2010, there were about 75 million children in the United States ages 0–17.
69% lived with two parents
23 % lived with only their mothers,
3% lived with only their fathers,
4% lived with neither of their parents. (Harry Potter, anyone?)
Among the 3.0 million children 24 percent lived with non-relatives. Of children in non-relatives' homes, 27 percent (200,000) lived with foster parents. (Like Katherine Paterson’s Gilly Hopkins)
I’ve only touched on the one type of statistic describing America’s children, that of the family dynamic. This list doesn’t touch on some of the other factors that might tell us what our readers are like today. Do they live in a house, shelter, or car? Are their parents employed? Do they shop at the mall and grocery store, or Goodwill and the local food bank?
Maybe some of these statistics will inspire you because every one of those children needs their own story to be told.